Wedding Photography Group Photos
Sometimes Necessary But Keep The List Short If You Can
You may opt to do the wedding photography group photos at the reception venue. However, in many cases they can be shot immediately after the ceremony in the grounds of, or near to the church.
You should have pre-arranged:
Try to start with the entire congregation as most people have just two things on their mind at this point. Food and drink. If you get the entire party in the first shot it is much easier to then allow the majority of people to head off to the reception leaving you with the core family and bridal party.
Basic Group Photo List
It saves people having to wait around when they could be propping up the bar. So, most wedding photography group photos at a standard wedding include (just to give a general idea, each wedding is different):
For a full list that you can print off, see the wedding photography checklist.
Wedding Photography Group Photos and Posing
Every photographer is different with regard to how they do the group shots. If you have your own style and the couple are happy with it, go with it. If you are unsure, go traditional. It's good practice to get everyone in the shots.
You may read on forums or magazines that the old ways are "old hat".
This may be the case much of the time but even recently I get couples asking if I can "spot colour" some of their images.
It is old hat if you are a photographer that sees and reads about it day in day out. However, it is important to remember that to many people it is still "new"!
At the end of the day, find out what the couple want and go with that. If you have your own, original and experimental ideas, throw them in as a bonus.
When looking through your viewfinder, don’t just look at their faces. Look to see what is distracting or out of place:
Hint: An old tip I remember is that the groom traditionally stands to his brides right. This is so he can "draw his sword" to defend her from advancing menaces.
Ask people to take off their sunglasses and do up their ties if wearing them. You will almost certainly have to be quite assertive at this point. Not only will the groups be wanting to "party", you will undoubtedly have some stragglers behind you either stealing your set up shots or just generally enjoying themselves and distracting your subjects.
I have turned around on a few occasions wondering what everyone was looking at to find a bunch of people with all sorts of cameras all firing away. Nowadays I even get people shooing with large iPads jumping in my way!!!
I just let them take a few and politely ask if they stop whilst I take the "official" shots. At the end of the day you are being paid for this by their friends (the bride and groom) and they should respect that.
Before each shot, do a quick scan of all the faces to make sure they are looking. Even do a countdown...three...two...one...just to give everyone an indication that you are working. Also, take two or three shots of each set up to make sure you get one with everybody looking.
Note: When it comes to processing these images, don’t feel like you have to process them all. If you took four shots of one group and one is spot on, don’t waste time with the others if they are very similar.
Another Note: Another good idea is to always re-number or re-name your files for the client when you have finished processing. I have had a few brides that noticed a gap in the image file numbers and demanded to see "the rest". I politely explain that they are gaps made when I delete unsuitable images either during the day or once I go through and process everything.
Wedding Photography Group Photos and Location
How are your clients going to want to remember this day? It is important to set up the groups with a background that means something to them. Is the church is "pretty" enough and if so, use it as a backdrop. If not, look in the immediate vicinity for something that is suitable but not too distracting.
If there really is nowhere nearby, suggest shooting the groups at the reception venue. Sometimes, more often than not, you have more options open to you here.
If all else fails, bring the groups as far away from distracting backgrounds as you can and use a shallow depth of field (large aperture) to blow out or blur the background out of the equation.
Wedding Photography Group Photos and Time/Keeping
Inevitably you will get some "huffing and puffing" as people are generally impatient at weddings. It could even be the bride or groom themselves. I just remind people that I have been hired to and paid for taking these shots so please just hold out for a while longer. "We are nearly finished" ; )
It is down to you to start as you mean to go on. Learn to work quickly and efficiently whilst making sure you get them all. If you don’t have an assistant, use the services of the ushers, groomsmen or best man. That is what they are traditionally there for anyway!
I give them the exact list that the couple have asked for. Then I ask them to run through it grabbing the right people for me for each shot. It is impossible to learn who everyone is and usually, the groomsmen know most people at the wedding. Use them.
Once the wedding photography group photos are done, you may want to get a couple of shots of the bride and groom in the back of the wedding car? Then you need to "hoof" it on to the reception and try and get them arriving.
This is probably the best time, and should be pre-arranged with the couple beforehand, to get some special "time out" shots with them alone. You should have sussed out a suitable place either on the way to or at the reception itself.
The guests are milling about having refreshments and this time you take with the couple gives a nice gap and leads to a grander entrance to the reception.
Suggested Equipment and Settings
When shooting groups you normally fill the frame with the subject right up to the edges so cropping is minimal. With 1.5x or 1.6x crop DSLR's you are fine as the crop factor uses just the "sweet spot" of a lens. However, with a full frame camera, beware.
The edges can be poorer quality with some fringing (even with quality zooms) so try and leave a bit of room for cropping later on. Also, invest in some quality primes such as a 35mm, 50mm or 85mm lenses. The quality is much better and you will notice a significant difference on the edges particularly when used with a "crop camera".
Where you place the subject can alter whether you use fill in flash or not. Will you have the sun in front of or behind the subject? Does your camera have pretty good dynamic range or will you need to "pop" in a bit of flash to even out the shadows?
Also remember that for "deep" group shots where you have the entire party of maybe 200 people in frame, you will have to keep the depth of field right up to ensure everyone is sharp. Do this by using a smaller aperture of f8 or smaller (but you knew that didn’t you)?
A decent, large reflector from someone like Lastolite is a wonderful piece of kit to have. They fold up quite small with one easy movement and spring back to life when you need them.
The one I use has a double sided reflector with white on one side and gold on the other. If you don’t want to use fill in flash, just place your groups with the sun behind.
Then bounce in some natural light from your reflector...lovely!
Invest in a decent tripod or monopod too. I sometimes leave the camera on mine during the group shots. This allows me to "to and fro" between the camera and the people so I can adjust dresses etc without having to re-frame the shot.
Note: I think I mentioned this before but I will say it again. If using a tripod with camera on auto (Av, Tv or Program) remember that light entering the viewfinder can affect your meter reading. Either look through it or cover the eyepiece with your hand when shooting.